Country comes to town today, with the rural sector – and its town supporters – taking to the streets across the country to protest a slew of Government regulations.
The Mother of All Protests, organised by rural lobby group Groundswell follows a similar nationwide protest, the Howl of a Protest in July.
The group, according to its website, is seeking a halt to, and rewrite of, “unworkable regulations” relating to freshwater, indigenous biodiversity, climate change and the Crown Pastoral Land Reform bill.
It also wants a stronger advocacy voice on behalf of farmers and rural communities, solutions to environmental issues that are tailored to regional/district differences, and support for hundreds of grassroots initiatives such as biodiversity and conservation trusts.
Protesters will gather in their vehicles – utes, tractors, trucks or cars -in more than 70 locations from Kaitāia to Stewart Island. Start times range from 11am to 1pm.
At 1.35pm the Groundswell statement will be played on the local Newstalk ZB frequency, with protesters encouraged to “turn up the volume, turn off your engine, open the windows so all can hear”.
Protesters have been told to stay in their vehicles and follow local Covid safety guidance, but the number of vehicles expected to be involved has prompted authorities to warn of possible traffic disruption.
There may be some traffic delays and disruptions in the wider central business district area today, police said in a media release.
They also sounded a warning to protesters to adhere to Covid-19 restrictions. Auckland is level 3 step 2, which allows outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people only.
“Police recognise that individuals have a lawful right to protest. However, this should not be at the expense of restrictions that are designed to keep our community safe.
“Breaches of the health order or other illegal behaviour may be followed up with enforcement action.”
In Northland, Whāngārei District Council said on its Facebook page they’d been told central city and arterial routes in Whangārei would be the site of the Groundswell protest from about 1pm.
“Our traffic operations staff will take steps to keep traffic flowing as well as possible, however please be aware there may be some problems with travel times, parking, traffic lights and general road use while the protest is active.”
As well as telling participants to stick to their bubbles, make way for emergency services and follow the road rules, organisers have also published a list of approved slogans for protest banners, including “Enough is Enough”, “No Farmers, No Food” and “No Ute Tax”.
Standing in for Minister of Rural Communities Damien O’Connor in Parliament on Thursday, Stuart Nash said – when asked by Act rural spokesman Mark Cameron whether O’Connor had met with Groundswell NZ leaders – he wasn’t sure “what Groundswell stands for these days”.
Based on what he’d read on their website it was “a mixture of racism, anti-vax etcetera, etcetera”, Nash said, before going on to say the Government would continue to meet with farming leaders and engage with rural communities.
Groundswell Wairarapa called off their involvement in today’s protest to avoid being hijacked by anti-vaxxers, but others are going ahead.
Groundswell leader Bryce McKenzie told Stuff the allegations were ”totally untrue” and they’d never said anything about vaccination. He and co-leader Laurie Paterson were both vaccinated.
In a press release this week, organisers asked those planning to show up to take care with the message they were trying to get across.
“With our opponents attempting to smear Groundswell, we need to be extra careful not to add fuel to the fire with off-message or offensive banners that the media will highlight.”
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